Air Pollution Law and Standards

  • Maurice Frankel


The control of industrial air pollution in the UK is divided between the central government Alkali Inspectorate, which deals with air pollution from certain manufacturing processes, and local authorities, which deal with air pollution from other industrial sources.

Factories using processes controlled by the Alkali Inspectorate are required, under the Health and Safety at Work Act, to use the ‘best practicable means’ (a) to prevent emissions, and (b) to ensure that any emissions that do escape do not cause a hazard or a nuisance.

Outline ‘best practicable means’ are published for each industry but the Alkali Inspectorate does not disclose either the final details of the standard imposed on individual factories or information about emission levels. Information about emissions from some of these factories will be available from local authorities, as they are able—but not obliged—to publish this data.

Air pollution from furnaces is dealt with by local authorities under the Clean Air Acts, which limit emissions of smoke, grit and dust. Local authorities have powers to deal with other pollution only if it can be shown to have caused a hazard or a nuisance.

The standards enforced by local authorities are all on public record, but emissions data will be published only if local authorities choose to release it.

Both the Alkali Inspectorate and local authorities control the heights of chimneys used to discharge pollution so that by the time they reach the ground emissions are diluted to concentrations believed to be relatively safe. The calculations used to set chimney heights are not exact or valid under all weather conditions; at times ground level pollution may be much greater than predicted and, occasionally, hazardous.


Local Authority Sulphur Dioxide Royal Commission Registered Work Ground Level Concentration 
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References and Notes

  1. 5.
    E. A. J. Mahler, ‘Standards of Emission Under the Alkali Act’, Paper presented to the International Clean Air Congress, London, October 1966. Reprinted in 103rd Annual Report on Alkali Etc. Works 1966 (London: HMSO, 1967), pages 56–60.Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    For examples, see: M. Frankel, The Alkali Inspectorate. The Control of Industrial Air Pollution (London: Social Audit, 1974), pages 13 and 22.Google Scholar
  3. 30.
    J. F. Garner and R. K. Crow, Clean AirLaw and Practice, 4th Edition (London: Shaw and Sons, 1976).Google Scholar
  4. 46.
    R. G. Bond and C. P. Straub, Handbook of Environmental Control, Volume 1, Air Pollution (Cleveland, Ohio: CRC Press, 1972), page 300.Google Scholar
  5. 48.
    D. J. Moore, ‘S02 Concentration Measurements Near Tilbury Power Station’, Atmospheric Environment, Vol. 1 (1967), pages 389–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 50.
    R. S. Scorer and C. F. Barrett, ‘Gaseous Pollution from Chimneys’, International Journal of Air and Water Pollution, Vol. 6 (1962), pages 49–63.Google Scholar
  7. 51.
    Based on an illustration from: A. Coe and I. M. Coe, Smoke Inspector’s Handbook Two (London: College of Fuel Technology, 1963).Google Scholar
  8. 60.
    A. W. C. Keddie, G. H. Roberts and F. P. Williams, ‘The Application of Numerical Modelling to Air Pollution in the Forth Valley’, in The Mathematical Models for Environmental Problems, Proceedings of an International Conference held at the University of Southampton, September 8–12, 1975 (London: Pentech, 1976).Google Scholar
  9. 63.
    Based on figures given by F. E. Ireland, ‘The Technical Background Leading to the Ministry’s Memorandum on Chimney Heights’, Journal of the Institute of Fuel, Vol. 36 (1963), pages 272–74.Google Scholar
  10. 64.
    G. Nonhebel, ‘Chimney Design Requirements’, in K. Tearle (editor), Industrial Pollution Control: The Practical Implications (London: Business Books, 1973), pages 158–70.Google Scholar
  11. 65.
    A. J. Clarke, D. H. Lucas and F. F. Ross, ‘Tall Stacks—How Effective are They?’, Paper presented to 2nd International Clean Air Conference, Washington DC (6–11 December 1970). Reprint available from Central Electricity Generating Board, Information Services, Sudbury House, 15 Newgate Street, London EC1.Google Scholar
  12. 66.
    G. Manier, ‘The Errors in the Analytical Calculation of the Dispersion of Atmospheric Trace Substances (A Critical Comparison Between Measured and Calculated SO2 Concentrations)’, Staub-Reinhalt. Luft, Vol. 30, No. 1 (January 1970), pages 15–22.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Maurice Frankel 1978

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  • Maurice Frankel

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